Sarah C. Davis Reiter

Sarah C. DAVIS is my maternal 2nd great grandmother. She married Nicholas REITER whom I wrote about here. Sarah passed away in February of 1870 in Illinois. Today I’m honoring her life.

Sarah was born in July of 1836 in Perry Township, Pike County, Illinois. As far as I know, she never left that area. That area is where she was born, where she lived, and where she died. It’s been difficult to find Sarah in records, in part due to the short duration of her life. In the 1850 census (the first one that included details on each and every person residing in a home), Sarah was only 12 years old and living with her parents. I have not been able to find her at all in the 1860 census and in 1870 she passed away before the census was done. There is an 1865 Illinois state census but it doesn’t list each person in the household. One of the most interesting documents found about Sarah was found by my sister-in-law, Becky. She found three affidavits Sarah gave on behalf of her mother, Rachel, when Rachel was applying for John DAVIS’ military pension (John was Rachel’s husband and Sarah’s dad). Sarah gave affidavits stating that her brothers (Charles D., Alpheus B., and Harvey D.) were the legitimate children of John and Rachel DAVIS and she knew this because she was present at their births. Sarah would have been between 16-20 years old when her brothers were born.


58-year-old Rebecca WORK, and 29-year-old Sarah RITER – both residents of Perry Township, Pike County, Illinois – signed an affidavit on 3 May 1867 declaring they were both present at the birth of Charles D. DAVIS (Sarah’s brother) on 31 May 1852.

Affidavit regarding the birth of Charles D. DAVIS. Their handwritten portion of the statement is difficult to read. It says they know the information they swore to “from the fact that we were both present at the house of said John F. Davis and in the presence of said mother Rachel Davis at the time the said Charles D. Davis was born.”

Rebecca and Sarah signed a second affidavit declaring they were both present at the birth of “Alphis B. Davis” (should be spelled Alpheus) on 17 Apr 1854 stating they knew this information “from being present in the house and in the room when and where said Alpheus B. Davis was born.”

Affidavit regarding the birth of Alpheus B. DAVIS.

Dr. Harvey DUNN Jr. and Sarah A. RITER (both residents of Perry Township, Pike County, Illinois) signed the third affidavit declaring they were both present at the birth of Harvey D. Davis on 4 Mar 1857.

Affidavit regarding the birth of Harvey D. DAVIS. Their reason for knowing this information was “from being present and assisting when the said Harvey Davis was born into the world.”

All three children were sworn to be legitimate children of Corporal John F. and Rachel DAVIS.


When I read these affidavits I wondered if Sarah might have been a local midwife. I have no proof that she was or that she wasn’t. Another thought crossed my mind. Sarah died from “Consumption”. You’d know that disease better as Tuberculosis. My thought was whether Sarah contracted Tuberculosis while delivering a baby. I don’t know if that’s possible. That’s just the thought that crossed my mind. She was present at the births of her brothers from age 16 until the last recorded sibling of hers was born. She attended these births with another older woman for the 1852 and 1854 births. I have tried researching Rebecca WORK but have not made much progress. My goal was to find out if she was a relative, a local midwife, a good friend, etc.. I can’t answer for any of these possibilities at this point. While researching I did find a biography for Dr. Harvey DUNN, Jr. If you’re interested, you can read it on Google Books in the book, History of Pike County, Illinois or on FindAGrave website.

Just an FYI, Rachel (Sarah’s mom) did have another child in 1853- a boy named Jonathon. Because of the wording in the pension paperwork that Rachel filed, I believe that this child died prior to the filing of the pension paperwork.

In February of 1870 Sarah died of Tuberculosis. My niece read a book when she was younger entitled, Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles. It’s about a young girl who contracts Tuberculosis and moves to a sanitorium to be cured. Now that I’m thinking about that book, it makes me think that perhaps Sarah was in a sanitorium in 1860 and that’s why I can’t find the family on the census. Isn’t it funny what types of things give us an inspirational idea like that? I think I’ll go research that angle now and maybe see if I can check out that book, too. I’m so thankful for modern medicine. If you’re sick, go to the doctor! There are so many people in your life that would miss you and need you if you were gone. Do it for them if that’s what you need to do. This illness that’s currently going around is nothing to mess with and in Nevada a woman died recently from a Superbug that we have no medicines to treat. Don’t take chances with your health. We need you here!

Stay healthy until next time,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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